My Childhood part five – The Annual Outing
My Childhood part five – The Annual Outing
The highlight of every child’s year – apart from Christmas – was the annual day trip to the seaside, and the day after was just as dismal as Boxing Day to a child, the thought that it was all over for another year was just unbearable.
As I said earlier, Holidays were very rarely heard of, abroad was for the rich, a week’s holiday by the sea was for the better off and a day trip to the seaside was for those who scrimped and saved all year round.
We lived at the very top of a huge hill which had a turning to the left halfway up, on the few rare occasions I could actually afford the 1d fare from town I would get the K5, this bus -owing to the fact that hardly anyone had a car – was always grossly overcrowded on the school run, so as it attempted its climb up the hill it inevitably struggled just before the left turn, the conductor would then order everyone off the bus with the exception of the elderly, so forty or fifty kids would alight and as the bus struggled the last few yards they would all get behind it and pretend to push, I still shudder to think what would have happened had that double decker’s brakes failed! Anyway, it would struggle around the corner and everyone got back on, It probably would have been quicker to walk up the rest of the hill rather than go all around the estate, but we had paid and we wanted our money’s worth!
I digress, starting in October a lady from the local Tenants association would come around and collect a shilling from Mum for the annual outing, this day trip would take us to Rhyl, Weston Super Mare or Southport, we lived in the dead centre of the Midlands as far away from the coast as you could get in any direction, so these resorts were the only options available in a day.
The day trip usually took place in the first Sunday of the factory fortnight, this would ensure that the fathers still had money in their pockets for the expected treats.
So on Sunday July 27th 1958 over five hundred mostly women and children (there were a few fathers) gathered on that infamous turning on the hill, this was a great vantage point as you could see a coach coming for miles, children would strain their eyes and scream with delight as the first of ten coaches (or charabancs as they were known) came into sight. Everyone knew their coach number so the next task for the kids was the rush for the back seat, We had a secret weapon, a lad called Richie who- although a mere eight year old – was a big rotund boy and made an easy meal of any adult who got in his way! He would ‘block’ the back seat until we struggled on and joined him.
All the excitement and screaming had died down by the end of the first hours travelling, any sweets used to bribe for peace and quiet was long gone and then it began, “Are we there yet, I’m hungry, I need a wee”.
Eventually the tired mothers would give in and open the sandwiches meant for the arrival, Mother’s pride bread came in a sort of waxed paper back then so food would be carefully wrapped in the paper to keep it fresh, within minutes there then came the most terrible mixed odour of boiled egg, mashed banana, onion and orange which filled the confines of the coach, when the inevitable nappy changes began it all became too much and every small sliding window was thrust open with young mouths pressed against them gasping for air.
This of course would wake the few sleeping fathers on board who would retort with “Shut that bloody window, were you born in a barn?”
Then there came murmurings of ‘I feel sick mum’ or ‘I need the toilet mum’, thankfully at this stage the coach would have reached its halfway point and the service station cafe was near, this was great if you were on the first coach, the service was quick, the toilets were clean etc. But if you were unfortunate enough to be on any of the ten coaches after number four you would need wellies for the toilets and a good sense of humour to buy what was remaining in the cafe.
Then it was back on board for the remainder of the journey. Just over an hour later lots of sticky fingers and lips were pressed against the once spotlessly clean glass in order to get their first glimpse of the sea, I will never forget the excitement one year of being the first to shout ‘There it is, I can see it’, ( I know, sad wasn’t it).
I don’t know if you recall the seaside of the late fifties, but if the weather was hot they were really overcrowded and space was at a premium. By 11am as we arrived it was quite full, but we always managed to muscle in somewhere, first job for the parents was to get the deckchairs, only two mind you, us kids had the sand and towels to sit on. We also had hand-knitted swimming costumes which Mum had knitted over the past twelve months, so without thought it was straight into the sea, there was no warning that the weight of water absorbed would threaten your dignity, but it did with a vengeance!
So we would sit there eating sandwiches of meat paste, lemon curd or jam whilst being bothered by every wasp on the beach, dad would sit in his suit with his cap over his eyes and mum would sit with her big overcoat on even though the sun was blazing. We would watch with envy some of the better-off kids chomping their way through freshly made Fish and chips, followed by a big round Candy Floss, but we were at the seaside, sat on the sand and that was all that really mattered.
At precisely 11.55 there was a mass exodus of the male population on the sands, it was almost opening time, This was the signal for us kids to bombard our mothers with pleas for an ice-cream or sweets. The thought of sunburn was never in our minds, if you managed to get burnt then it was straight out with the Calamine lotion and you were covered from head to toe in a white soothing liquid.
At Weston Super Mare the sea was rarely in, it would be going out as you arrived and would be coming in as you left, leaving just a sea of wet sand, so we just played on the sand, if we were really lucky there would be a Punch and Judy show to watch, or if enough spare money a donkey ride. There was always the ‘obligatory’ collection of seashells, in my day you hadn’t been to the seaside unless you came back with shells. There was also the Fun Fair or Pleasure Beach as it has become known today, but that was always a no go area for us, not only because of the money but because of the undesirables (Teddy boys) that would hang around there
At 2.20pm precisely (compulsory 20mts drinking up time) red faced fathers would once again descend on the golden sands, full of moist mild, and best bitter, some wearing the inevitable ‘Kiss me quick’ hats, the added Dutch courage would convince them that they were the best footballers in the world and there were numerous attempts to ‘dribble’ through the nippers playing with the ball, it was only a matter of minutes before they were dribbling from their mouths and gasping on another cigarette. The rest of the afternoon was spent in a deckchair, in best suit handkerchief on head, trousers rolled up snoring loudly enough to spook the nearby donkeys!
At 5pm it was time to start the journey back, just time for a quick paddle in the incoming sea to ensure that you didn’t take half the beach back between your toes. The return journey was always a bit of a solemn affair, sleeping fathers, tired mothers and sad kids knowing it was all over again until next year.
There was one more treat yet to come on that journey home, and two hours later the only sound heard was the click, click click of the coach’s indicator, as it braked the men miraculously woke and there was a mad dash for the front – we had arrived at the pub! Suddenly, everyone had come to life. A lot of public houses on these routes didn’t welcome coaches, it meant they would struggle to serve dozens of thirsty men, more than a hundred hungry children demanding Vimto and crisps and still keep their locals happy, Within an hour peace would once again descend on the pub and the visitors would leave a trail of empty glasses, littered tables and floors which would take a few hours to clear up.
So most of the pubs did not welcome coaches, but of course if it was prearranged then the landlord could call in extra staff to cope and all was well. The half hour stop would inevitably go past an hour, eventually the journey home resumed, but the atmosphere on the coach was totally different with choruses of ‘Show me the way to go home’ or ‘Daisy Daisy’. As we neared home the hat would be passed down the aisle and coins thrown in for the driver.
The bright lights of home loomed ever near as parents prepared to alight, the men headed off to the local to squeeze in the last few pints before closing time, their duty done for another year, leaving the wives to struggle home with the children uttering those immortal words ‘Never again’.
But of course they all knew that come next year they would do it all again!
Until next time.
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